Jim Embry: Kentucky Delegate to Terra Madre in Italy

Jim Embry: Kentucky Delegate to Terra Madre in Italy

Ace October 2008
Terra Madre/Slow food  2008

My first trip to Europe could not have been for a more glorious reason than to attend the fabulous Terra Madre gathering in Torino, Italy October 23-27 2008. What a grand, inspirational and educational experience it was.

I encourage everyone reading this to learn some Italian, save those pennies and consider attending the next gathering in 2010 … because our beloved state of Kentucky needs the help… and you will have a wonderful time (www. Terramadre2008.org)
About 20 of us kindred spirits from Kentucky and 800 from the USA were among the 6,300 delegates who attended the third edition of the international Terra Madre gathering that included more than 4,000 small-scale farmers, breeders, fishers and artisan producers, 800 cooks, 300 academics, 1000 young people and 200 musicians representing 1652 food communities and 150 countries as well as hundreds of volunteers and observers. Terra Madre brought together people from different climates and cultures to share innovative solutions and time-honored traditions for keeping small-scale agriculture and sustainable food production alive and well.

Terra Madre-meaning Mother Earth- the largest international gathering of small scale farmers and food producers is a forum for those who produce, purchase, cook, and educate in an effort to promote a more sustainable local and global food system. The gathering is based on the concept of food communities which encompass the long and diverse chains of people involved in bringing our food from field to the table. “Terra Madre is a forum for all who believe that good, clean and fair food should be available at every table,” said Erika Lesser, Director of Slow Food USA.

First organized in 2004 and repeated in 2006, this year Terra Madre grew even stronger thanks to 1,000 youth delegates from around the world who came as college and high school students, culinary students, young farmers, cooks and activists. My impression was that this organization very clearly understood that to strive towards sustainable development means we MUST involve our youth! As an expression of this understanding, the Opening Ceremony that included colorful and inspiring cultural performances, speeches by Carlo Petrini, Vandana Shiva, Prince Charles and Alice Waters also included a speech by Sam Levin, a 15-year-old student at Monument Mountain High School in Massachusetts. Sam rocked the house with such words as these: “What all of you have started is an unbelievable beginning to a powerful revolution. But I know that all of you are wondering if my generation will be able to continue that revolution, and carry it to the extent of its mission…. I’m here today because I want you to know that we get it. We will be the generation
that reunites mankind with the earth.” Sam and his classmates will be here in Kentucky November 6- 7, 2008 to speak in Louisville at the Local Food Healthy Farms conference organized by the Sierra Club. He is the real deal!

Other prominent U.S. delegates to Terra Madre included Will Allen, a 2008 MacArthur Genius Award winner and founder of Growing Power. Will speaks in Lexington on April 13 6pm at the Downtown Public Library; Wanona LaDuke; Chef Tory Miller of L’Etoile of Madison, WS; the Coalition of Immokalee Workers; and faculty from the New Hampshire’s ground breaking new “Eco-Gastronomy” program.

Terra Madre this year ran concurrently with Salone del Gusto, one of the most important international fairs dedicated to high quality, sustainably produced artisan food from around the world, also organized by Slow Food International. The unification of these two events opened discussion to Salone’s 180,000 visitors on topics important to sustainable food production. For example in the Salone, Vandana Shiva presented the Manifesto on Climate Change and the Future of Food Security by the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture to a packed auditorium. This document co-authored by Wendell Berry outlined why it is vital to consider agriculture in analyses of climate change and discussions of possible solutions.

Slow Food believes that both events will continue to build bridges from the farm to table and inspire solidarity among sustainable producers, supporters and advocates.
Education was a key theme of the gathering’s forty Earth Workshops, 28 regional and national meetings, walks through the Journey to the Origins of Taste exhibits, hundreds of daily cultural performances, the captivating international Marketplace, the long bus rides to and dinners back at your hotel and the many hugs shared between kindred spirits. The message being spread by Terra Madre is gaining momentum on every level — from food producer to global policymaker. In a clear sign of the political strength it has gained, at the Closing Ceremony the Italian government invited a Terra Madre delegation to serve as an interlocutor to the G8 meeting next year in Sardinia, Italy. This unprecedented invitation will give significant voice to a representation of the 450 million smallholder farmers of the world who do not typically have the opportunity to influence global policy decision-making.

Terra Madre was without a doubt one of the liveliest and most practical international gatherings that I have ever attended. It is difficult in these few words to describe and for you readers to even imagine such a magical and profoundly important event. In those few short incredible days, international friendships were developed, exchanges established, our world’s cultures were tasted, listened and danced to,seen and appreciated, hugged and kissed… our lives were vastly enriched and connected. Terra Madre invites and reminds us to return to the terra — Earth; and madre — the Earth as mother.